There’s a bit of disagreement about Kentucky Speedway’s efforts to ready the track for racing this weekend.
The track was resurfaced and reconfigured before the 2016 race. As new pavement was added, the track added different widths and banking for turns 1 and 2 and turns 3 and 4.
In the fall, the track added a new surface layer of pavement after discovering some potential long-term durability issues with the initial repaving. Because of the recent renovations, the track has been dragging tires in the preferred lower groove in the corners to help add grip for all three NASCAR series races this weekend.
The track did the same thing a year ago to help the quality of racing. With fresh, grippy pavement and lots of downforce built into NASCAR cars and trucks, side-by-side racing doesn’t tend to be prevalent. So tracks take action like Kentucky has.
This is where we get to the fun. After noticing that Kentucky was only dragging the tires in the lower groove and not from the wall down to the apron, drivers like Brendan Gaughan weren’t thrilled and questioned what the track was doing.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. vice president Steve Swift isn’t having much of it.
“I think we know what we’re doing,” Swift told NBC Sports.
Swift expounded on the track’s reasoning for going hard after the lower groove at the expense of lesser-traveled parts of the track.
“What we have learned from last year’s Cup race here on the new surface and in Texas is that if we can give them two to three lanes in the bottom, it creates better racing instead of doing the entire racetrack because we’re trying to make sure they can run at the bottom in lieu of not being able to run at all because it’s too dusty or dirty,” Swift said.
Dissent regarding the track surface may be because of recency bias. Michigan tried similar tire-dragging techniques to prep its track surface before the June race at the track. What resulted for the Cup Series was a drab affair that saw cars fighting for the preferred groove and wary of going anywhere else on the track for fear of crashing from a lack of grip.
We’ll see how Kentucky’s efforts play out over the weekend, but they may have already been muted by the weather. Rain arrived Thursday afternoon at the track and could have washed away much of the rubber Kentucky tried to put down.
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